The Robust International Antiquities Trade: the Law, Smugglers, thieves, Prestigious Auctions, ISIS, Animals. And some Renowned Museums too.

Elgin Marbles | Detail

USA |

[At the Kansas City, Missouri, ANTIQUES ROADSHOW in August 2013, a woman brought in what was probably a seed pot that was made by the Anasazi, a Native American pueblo people who lived near present-day Four Corners — the region where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona come together. The pot was most likely made between 1000 and 1300 A.D. — clearly making it an important piece historically — and according to expert Anthony Slayter-Ralph was worth between $3,000 and $4,000 in the retail market.

But this pot, like many other Native American objects, raised an important question often asked by owners and collectors of Native American objects: What should be done with prehistoric and other Indian objects that you may possess, and when is it okay to buy or sell them?] Indian Artifacts: Understanding the Law | PBS

Also, An Exclusive Look at the Greatest Haul of Native American Artifacts, Ever | The Smithsonian Magazine

Also, ICE Cultural Heritage Repatriations 

Europe |

[A few years ago, Christos Tsirogiannis was looking through the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s online collection when he had a flash of recognition. While studying an ancient Greek krater—a clay vase used for mixing wine—something “suddenly clicked,” he says. The vase was decorated with a painting of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine. “I knew that I had seen the subject on that krater before,” he says.

A forensic archaeologist affiliated with the University of Glasgow’s Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, Tsirogiannis has access to restricted databases containing tens of thousands of photographs and documents seized during raids. Searching through the online archives, he found five photos of the Met’s Greek krater among items confiscated from Giacomo Medici, an Italian antiquities dealer convicted in 2005 of receiving stolen goods and conspiracy to traffic looted antiquities.

So why was an object that may have been dug up and sold by looters on display at a famous American museum, and how did it get there?] Museum Goers Beware: That Ancient Artifact May Be Stolen | National Geographic

Middle East and ISIS |

[What isis hates, it destroys, and ancient artifacts are no exception. To erase pre-Islamic history, it has employed sledgehammers and drills at a museum in Mosul, explosives at Palmyra, and all of these weapons, plus jackhammers, power saws, and bulldozers, at Nimrud. In one video, a fighter explains that isismust smash “these statues and idols, these artifacts,” because the Prophet Muhammad destroyed such things after conquering Mecca, nearly fourteen hundred years ago. “They became worthless to us even if they are worth billions of dollars,” he adds. So, at the Met, many were puzzled when Andrew Keller, a soft-spoken senior official at the State Department, unveiled newly declassified documents proving that isis maintains a marginally profitable “antiquities division.”] The Real Value of the ISIS Antiquities Trade | The New Yorker

Efforts |

[A Memorandum of Understanding was inked by the United States and the People’s Republic of China on January 14, 2009. The five-year agreement outlines a number of steps designed to stem the flow of illicitly excavated or exported artifacts from China to the U.S. (click here for legal background).] Archaeological Institute of America

U.S., Egypt Sign Agreement to Thwart Trade in Illegal Antiquities | National Geographic

Also…

Latin America |

[Mexico has had poor results in recuperating stolen cultural antiquities. There are deficiencies in both the registration of these thefts and a lack of coordination among the authorities to preserve the items.

The trafficking of items of cultural heritage is an activity that cuts across countries, and connects antique dealers and politicians in Buenos Aires to narcos in Guatemala, to collectors in Mexico, to diplomats in Peru and Costa Rica. This special, involving five journalistic teams, reveals the illicit international market for objects stolen from temples, public museums, and private collections. An initiative of OjoPúblico, this was produced by an alliance of news teams including La Nación (Costa Rica), Plaza Pública (Guatemala), Animal Político (México) and Chequeado (Argentina).] Only a Fraction of Mexico’s Stolen Cultural Antiquities Are Recovered | Insight Crime

Also… Illicit Cultural Property from Latin America: Looting, Trafficking, and Sale | SocArXivs

India |

[Indian Tourism and Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma’s recent admission in parliament that eight cases of antiquities theft were reported from State-protected monuments and museums across three states over the last year, has yet again brought to the fore the fraught issue of pilferage and smuggling of art treasures from Indian shores.

According to Global Financial Integrity, a Washington-based advocacy group, illegal trade in paintings, sculptures, and other artifacts is one of the world’s most lucrative criminal enterprises, estimated at $6 billion a year. And India, with its redoubtable cultural heritage, bureaucratic apathy, and tardy implementation of antiquities protection laws, offers pilferers fertile ground to plunder the past and spirit away booty worth billions for sale in the international bazaar.] Smuggling India’s Antiquities | The Diplomat

 

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As it’s Getting Really Cold and Lonely…

“As for me,” Twain wrote at the age of seventy-three, “I collect pets: young girls—girls from ten to sixteen years old; girls who are pretty and sweet and naive and innocent—dear young creatures to whom life is a perfect joy and to whom it has brought no wounds, no bitterness, and few tears.”

Mark Twain’s Disturbing Passion for Collecting Young Girls | The Paris Review

[The quintessential adolescent of the time, who leapt gloriously onto the London stage in 1904 and Broadway in 1905, was Peter Pan, the boy who refused to grow up. Like Mark Twain’s Huck Finn, Peter flew to uncharted territory rather than submit to becoming civilized by his family.

Mark Twain praised the play with his customary enthusiasm, gushing that

all the implacable rules of the drama are violated, yet the result is a play which is without a defect … It is a fairy play. There isn’t a thing in it which could ever happen in real life. That is as it should be. It is consistently beautiful, sweet, clean, fascinating, satisfying, charming, and impossible from beginning to end. It breaks all the rules of real life drama, but preserves intact all the rules of fairyland, and the result is altogether contenting to the spirit.

“The longing of my heart,” the seventy-year-old Twain added, “is a fairy portrait of myself: I want to be pretty; I want to eliminate facts and fill up the gap with charms.” Twain saw in Peter the adolescent he so fervently wished to be, eternally.]

This is the Question

What Do We Do With the Art of Monstrous Men? | the PARIS REVIEW

Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, William Burroughs, Richard Wagner, Sid Vicious, V.S. Naipaul, John Galliano, Norman Mailer, Ezra Pound, Caravaggio, Floyd Mayweather, though if we start listing athletes we’ll never stop. And what about the women? The list immediately becomes much more difficult and tentative: Anne Sexton? Joan Crawford? Sylvia Plath? Does self-harm count? Okay, well, it’s back to the men I guess: Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Lead Belly, Miles Davis, Phil Spector.

Still from Woody Allen’s Manhattan

 

Epic Battles of Words. In Rhyme.

“Racist bars and jokes are known for creating shock value and major crowd reactions, and to be on the receiving end of those lines will trigger emotions not only for a battler but for the people who those lines are referring to. I chose to embrace the stereotypes and I guess you can say, ‘take it back, take away the power.’ Those words hold and in, I turn flip it on my opponents.

I incorporate a lot of Native schemes, references, jokes and use it to my advantage. I always expect the them to come and me with the same material as they should since it’s a battle, and I’ve recently learned to sway myself from using  stereotypes against my opponents because, for me to do so would be defeating the point I’m trying to accomplish when I battle.”

Meet Phrase vs Pyrex

Amidst a Dreadful War, a Tree Sprouted in a Tiny Crack

In 1941 Salvador Dali and Walt Disney created an animated story about Chronos, the personification of Time, who falls in love with a mortal. Here it is:

 

The Event, According to Master Henri Cartier-Bresson

When Henri Cartier-Bresson first picked up a tiny Leica 35mm film camera in 1931, he began a visual journey that would revolutionize 20th-century photography.

His camera could be wielded so discreetly that it enabled him to photograph while being virtually unseen by others — a near invisibility that turned photojournalism into a primary source of information and photography into a recognized art form.

Cartier-Bresson’s concept of the “decisive moment” — a split second that reveals the larger truth of a situation — shaped modern street photography and set the stage for hundreds of photojournalists to bring the world into living rooms through magazines such as Life and Look.

Though he often focused on the human condition in his photographs, Cartier-Besson would often look at his contact sheets or prints upside down to judge the images separate from any social content. They stood as rigorous compositions on their own.

His signature shooting technique was to find a visually arresting setting for a photograph and then patiently wait for that decisive moment to unfurl.

The director Louis Malle remembered that, despite all the turmoil at the peak of the student protests in Paris in May 1968, Mr. Cartier-Bresson took photographs at the rate of only about four an hour.”

With the primacy of digital photography and social media in the 21st century, slow, painstaking image-making is becoming a relic. Photographers and their images now move at a pace as fast as the events swirling around them. Technological advances in cameras and methods of distribution have heralded in a new visual era, not unlike what Cartier-Bresson’s Leica did almost a century ago.

Photographs are no longer rare artifacts, nor primarily a means of learning about the exotic or unknown. They arrive instantaneously on our phones every day from every corner of the world and from all kinds of people. With a smart phone, everyone is a photographer, and images compete for crowd approval on social media channels like Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook.

Which raises questions on this anniversary of Cartier-Bresson’s death: Do these changes make a master’s carefully constructed images irrelevant? Or are they even more instructive today?

Read the full article here | The New York Times

PHOTO

The Federation of Damanhur, a Spiritual Community In Northern Italy

Damanhur was founded in 1975 by Oberto Airaudi with around 24 followers, and by 2000 the number had grown to 800. The group holds a mix of New Age and neopagan beliefs. They gained fame in 1992 through the disclosure of their secret excavation of an extensive underground temple, the Temples of Humankind, which was begun in 1978 under complete secrecy. The Italian authorities ordered construction work to stop because it had been constructed without planning approval, although artwork could continue. Retroactive permission was subsequently granted. (Wikipedia)

Airaudi and his supporters purchased property in the Italian Alps, in a region of Piedmont less than 30 miles north of the city of Turin. Two dozen pioneers organized the initial settlement. It was named Damanhur after an Egyptian city, located 100 miles “northwest of Cairo in the middle of the western Delta. It was once the site of the city of Tmn-Hor, dedicated to Horus.”  The group grew to include 200 “citizens” in 1985, 450 by 1998, and exceeded 800 by early in 2000. In addition, there are hundreds of associated members who donate to the community and attend some of its functions. Member satisfaction appears to be high; very few citizens leave the community. (Religious Tolerance)

Damanphur Virtual Tour | Temples of Humankind

The underground Temple of Man:

This is a unique underground building carved out of solid rock inside a small mountain. Its existence only became known to the outside world in 1992, after a disgruntled leader, Filippo Cerutti, sued the community. After an investigation, the City of Vidracco ordered the destruction of the temple. It had been constructed without building permits, and was in violation of various zoning regulations. However, public opinion and support from cultural and scientific sources has stalled the enforcement of the order. The community has since resumed construction, and expects to continue for decades into the future.

The Italian authorities in charge of the preservation of the works of art…declared it a protected ‘collective artistic work.’ For the outside visitor, it is a breathtaking experience, offering -room after room – amazing and unexpected discoveries…There are literally miles of corridors, and thousands of statues, windows and paintings” in the temple. It contains a series of halls, dedicated to water, the earth, the spheres, metals, and mirrors. The chambers and passages which make up the Temple are aligned to what they believe are three of the earth’s intersecting synchronic lines. The Damanhurians, view the Temple as a type of “alchemic laboratory“. Walking or meditating there is a metaphor for “going deep inside oneself in a spiritual pilgrimage.”

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